YANCEYVILLE, N.C. – Dogs make everything better, even people. And at Caswell County Correctional, Eyes Ears Nose and Paws (EENP) is proving just that.
The Carrboro-based service dog training program partnered with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety in 2014 and started ‘At Both Ends of the Leash’ (ABEL).
As of February, Caswell County Correctional is the newest facility where EENP has dogs in residence.
Inmates in the ABEL program learn how to train service dogs from EENP volunteers.
But the pups aren’t the only ones who learn new skills.
Dennis Jarrell, a transfer inmate from Franklin Correctional Center, has been training dogs for a year and a half and says the experience has been more than rewarding.
“You know you’re doing something positive with your time,” Jarrell said. “That something good is coming of the situation you’re in.”
Elizabeth Gregory, the lead EENP trainer at Caswell Correctional, says the best part of the program is seeing how the dogs humanize the inmates and bring the best out of them.
“We’re able to let go of the broader circumstance and just really have joy in watching the dogs perform and connecting with the dogs,” she said.
According to Gregory, it takes almost two years to train a service dog, and before the partnership with DPS, they could only train up to 12 dogs at a time.
This meant there weren’t enough trained dogs to meet the demand of the community that needs them.
“Since we started this partnership with DPS in 2014, we’re able to have up to 20 dogs in the formal training at one time,” Gregory explained.
She says it’s a “triple win:” The dogs get the attention and training they need, the inmate trainers learn intrapersonal skills and get to be involved with their communities despite being incarcerated, and getting more dogs to their fur-ever homes.
“We’re all growing and learning and having fun, you know, and doing something that gets to help the community and it’s just a great thing,” Jarrell added.
It’s also kind of a reward.
Inmates interested in participating in the program must go through an application and screening process to determine eligibility including being infraction-free 90 days or more prior to joining the program and for their duration in the program.
EENP’s most recent service dog graduation was Saturday, March 3.
For more information about EENP, visit their website www.eenp.org.